The genetic modification of plants provides a necessary solution for feeding the ever-increasing world population. However, manipulating the genetic makeup of plants may inadvertently result in the production of new proteins that can cause allergy. In a Commentary in Nature Immunology, Dean Metcalfe discusses the steps taken to detect such new food allergens from genetically modified plants and also discusses the limitations of these safeguard measures.
Because we still do not have a precise understanding of what makes certain food items allergenic, it is important to take appropriate steps to detect potential new allergens. In 1996, the relevant governing agencies across the globe proposed a set of guidelines for testing for food allergens from genetically modified plants. This set of guidelines was revised in 2001. As Metcalfe points out however, at present individual evaluations such as testing on animals or looking for similarity to proteins that might be allergenic are not fail-safe. Although these assessments will improve with advances in the underlying scientific understanding of allergy induction, Metcalfe reinforces the idea that the best way forward is a combination of many analyses.
Dean D. Metcalfe (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature Immunology press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza